FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Special education teachers say distance learning poses many challenges in teaching students with special needs.

However, the Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools has returned many special education students to the classroom so they can continue their education.

“When you communicate, 70% is how you do it, 30% is the words you said so yea it’s a unique challenge,” said Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teacher Anthony Davis. “Having them in the classroom definitely helps.”

In mid-October, the Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools brought many of their special education students back on campuses.

“We have over 75 classrooms that we operate throughout Fresno County, and all of them are back up and running in very small numbers,” said Director of Special Education Christina Borges.

Davis, who is also hard of hearing, is teaching students on the Washington Union High School campus. The small classes see two to three students twice a week.

“A big thing we struggle with, with our students, is language. They don’t come from homes where they have complete language communication with their families so anything we can get them talking about so now we’re just not learning the topic we’re also reinforcing their language.”

Parents do have a choice and some want their child to continue with distance learning. In this classroom, Davis is also teaching students online as well as those in front of him. He gets helps from an interpreter and an assistant.

For many students with special needs, having that in-person connection with their teacher is critical.

“I have lots of strategies and support set up in my classroom,” said Special Education Teacher Sabrina Lucero. “That is really important for them and important for their learning and it’s hard to do that over distance learning.”

Allowing students to return to class took a lot of coordination involving the Health Department, human resources, and labor unions, but teachers say it’s well worth the effort.